Franco-German Net Arte Launches 'Bel Etoile'

Backed by Discovery, cuisine docu-series one sign of building Brazil's bulding docu production scene

MADRID – Brazil’s twice Intl. Emmy-nominated Grifa Filmes, France’s F.L. Concepts & Co, Franco-German network Arte and Discovery’s TLC have joined forces to produce “Bel Etoile,” a new highpoint in Brazil’s fast-evolving docu production sector.

Airing from June 2 on Arte, “Bel Etoile” –“L’Assiette Bresilienne” in French – marks Brazil’s biggest co-production to date with Arte with a Brazilian figure as its protagonist. Discovery will broadcast “Bel Etoile” from 2015 across Latin America.

Thanks to the FIFA World Cup, the 2016 Rio Olympics, Brazil’s far larger economic clout and energetic Brazilian government funding, docu-shows on Brazil have proliferated.

Grouped under the Brazilian TV Producers banner, seven Brazilian production/distribution companies are attending France’s Sunny Side of the Doc, one of Europe’s preeminent docu fests, which kicks off today in La Rochelle. Three Brazilian channels – Curta, GloboNews, TV Brasil –also attend ,making up for one of the biggest Brazilian delegations ever at Sunny Side which the ten-year-old Brazilian TV Producers began to re-attend from last year

Sales-distribution house Elo Company alone has 15 movies and series in production, ranging from fiction movies to premium documentaries.

In “Bel Etoile,” there’s no soccer ball in sight. It is a gastronomy series, originally conceived as a purely local show where Brazilians learnt more about traditional dishes from the breadth and width of its vast country, said Grifa Filmes producer Mauricio Diaz.

That sense of discovery was, however, exactly why Arte warmed to its idea at 2013’s Rio Content Market, with F.L. Concepts boarding as a co-producer.

15 half-hour segs, “Bel Etoile” does home in on the central question that many shows are now asking about Brazil – What is the country really about? What is its essence?

It does so, however, in a road movie-cuisine-culture format which has 32-year-old chef Bel Coehlo travelling to lesser known parts of Brazil for foreigners: Bahia, forexample, where Brazil’s African roots are most evident, for a moqueca crab stew; Curauru, on the Sertao dry lands in the east, where she visits its open air market, renown for its handicraft, takes part in its Festa Junina, and savors a pork ragu.

32-year-old Bel Coehlo, one of Sao Paulo’s rising star chefs, fronts “Bel Etoile.” Having trained at Catalonia’s El Celler de Can Roca, she made a name for herself fore-fronting regional Brazilian cuisine as the chef at Sao Paulo’s now-shuttered Dui Restaurant.

Cooking on “Bel Etoile” can use the most modern of utensils, take place in an ultra-modern kitchen. But the show’s vibrant variety of dishes and colors, even the knick-knacks in a Carauru handicraft shop, underscore the diversity of cultures, places and customs that make up contemporary Brazil.

One note of Brazil’s new docu scene is its ambition. Fernando and Mauricio Dias’ Grifa Filmes, a top Brazilian docu production house whose series were distributed by Discovery, National Geographic, Fox, NHK and Arte, among many others, now has in advanced development, awaiting Brazilian financing, “New Species: Expedition Amazon Rainforest.” A co-production with Wales’ Cwmni Da, Germany’s Gebruder Beetz and Contentwest in London and Sao Paulo’s El Company, it turns on a projected scientific expedition next May to Young Mountain, the biggest unexplored landmass in the Amazon, where scientists are confident that they will discover multiple new species.

Grifa’s Mauricio Dias and Tatiana Battaglia are at Sunny Side of the Docs to present the four seg/special “Megafauna: Searching for the Giant Mammals of South America. Hosted by Toronto U’s Gerry de Ilullis, the upcoming show will rediscover the history exuberant pre-historic creatures.

At Sunny Side of the Doc, Casa Redonda’s Jasmin Pinho will present in tomorrow’s Arts & Culture section of the 2014 Pitching Sessions “The Current – Marina Abramovic and Brazil.” Distributed by Elo Company, the special will turn on the artist’s performances in the country, in which she claims contact with “invisible energies.”

Sunny Side will host a special public screening Monday of Duo 2’s “BR 14 – Route to Immigration,” that portrays 32 immigrant communities in Brazil, all with teams in Brazil’s FIFA World Cup. Doc highlights the miscegenation – and diversity, again – in the makings of modern Brazil.

France’s Sunny Side of the Doc runs June 23-26.The Rio Content Market’s 2015 edition takes place Feb. 25-27.

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